THE LAND OF MYSTIC SPLENDOUR AND THE THUNDER DRAGONS

Destinations: THE LAND OF MYSTIC SPLENDOUR AND THE THUNDER DRAGONS(Bhutan)
Trip Duration: 16 days
Best Time: March to May and September to November

Trip Cost

ON REQUEST

 

  • Day 01: Arrive KolkataYou will be assisted on arrival and transferred to your hotel. Morning is at leisure. In the afternoon, you proceed on a half-day city tour of Kolkata. Overnight stay in your hotel.
  • Day 02: Kolkata - Bagdogra - GangtokYou will be transferred in time to the airport to board your flight for Bagdogra. On arrival at Bagdogra you will be received and proceed by vehicle to Gangtok. Shortly after driving out of Siliguri you will be driving through a forested road that passes through the Mahananda Wildlife Sanctuary. Half an hour later you come to the Teesta River & will be traveling upstream for the rest of the journey. After having driven for about an hour & a half you cross the Teesta Bridge and travel along its right bank. You enter Sikkim at the border town of Rangpo. Later from Ranipool you part company with the Teesta River & climb up to Gangtok for the last 11 km.
    Gangtok has a very spectacular setting and offers excellent views of the entire Khanchen Dzonga range from various points in its vicinity. It is a city, which, till one sees it, one would believe exists only in picture-story books. In the mystery-laden mists prayer flags whip the breeze and wheels spin in the hands of lamas mumbling invocations to God. In the distance are the snows, on the streets amidst brightly painted pagoda roofed houses, lined with friendly smiling people are silver, silk, spice and jewellery to gladden a maiden’s heart. On arrival at Gangtok you will be assisted to check into your hotel. Overnight stay in your hotel.
  • Day 03: Around GangtokToday you will be out of your hotel before the crack of dawn to take 20 minutes drive to Tashi View Point. Situated along the North Sikkim Highway, from here one gets a breath taking view of Mt Khanchen Dzonga as the morning rays of the sun settle on it. 
    After breakfast, which will be served at the viewpoint, you proceed to the start point of your day’s trek. A 25 minutes drive takes you through the Sikkim Armed Police Lines & the GB Panth Himalayan Institute of Environment to a little ahead of its gate from where you commence you trek on a small footpath. You will be trekking through the Fambong Lho Wildlife Sanctuary up to Tinjure. After a short while you come to a well laid out bridle path, which is about 2 ft wide. The initial climb is quite gradual. Through the clearing in the forests you get glimpses of snow-capped peaks on the horizon. 15 minutes later you pass the Office of the Assistant Warden Fambong Wildlife Sanctuary at Golatar. This is the last point where water is available on this trek. A little ahead is a Forest Rest House. On crossing this one enters into thick forest cover of the Sanctuary. As one ascends the undergrowth begins to get denser. At times one has to trek through a tunnel of bamboo undergrowth. Towards the last 45 minutes of the trek it gets steep and often you have to pass through dense tunnels of bamboo undergrowth. On reaching the top you get a clear view of a wide sweep of the Himalayan ranges: to your right is Mt Khanchen Dzonga and towards the front is the Nathu La (Pass). Besides, you see an entire hillside covered with rhododendrons of various colours. After some refreshments you begin your descent, arriving at the start point a little after mid-day. Drive back to your hotel for lunch & some rest after an early morning & the trek.
    In the evening visit the 200 years old Enchey Monastery, Government Institute of Cottage Industries that has cottage craft of authentic Sikkimese designs, the Chorten (Stupa) which was built in 1945 and is considered to be one of the most important Chortens of Sikkim, and the world renowned and one of its kind Research Institute of Tibetology that has the third largest collection of Mahayana Buddhism which has been stored there. Overnight in your hotel.
  • Day 04: Gangtok - RavanglaWhile in Gangtok you have the option of taking a Mountain Flight early in the morning. The details of which are given separately at the end of the itinerary. From Gangtok you take an hour’s drive to visit Rumtek Monastery, which is perched on a hilltop facing the city of Gangtok. The original Monastery was built in 1730 by the ninth Karmapa but was destroyed due to a fire and His Holiness, the sixteenth Karmapa in 1960, then constructed the present one. The prayer hall in the main monastery is intricately decorated with statues, wall paintings, thangkas and tubular silk banners. A flight of stairs from just outside the Main Monastery complex takes you to the Nalanda Institute for Higher Buddhist Studies. 15 minutes walk downhill from the Main Monastery takes one to the Old Rumtek Monastery.
    After visiting Rumtek Monastery you drive to Temi Tea Estate. This is the one and only tea garden in the state of Sikkim and produces one of the top quality teas for the International market. The tea garden spread out on a gentle hill slope originating from Tendong Hill provides a magnificent view of the surrounding villages. A visit to the factory could be a magnificent eye-opener for those wanting to know about tea processing methods. Thereafter, you continue to Ravangala and check in to your hotel on arrival. In the evening you can stroll around the local market place to get a flavour of the daily way of life of these simple hill people. Overnight stay at your hotel.
  • Day 05: In RavanglaToday you set out on a trek to Maenam Wildlife Sanctuary. On a clear sunny day, it is possible to see the plains of Bengal spanning across Kalimpong and Darjeeling in the South, right across the Indo-China border towards the North. "Maenam-la"- the term stands for the treasure house of the medicines. The name suggests a rich collection of different medicinal plants available is the region. This sanctuary is famous for two reasons. Trekking and rich forest covers teeming with high altitude rare Himalayan species. This temperate forest shelters Red Panda, Goral, Serow, Barking Deer, Marbled-Cat, Leopard-Cat, Civet-Cats, Blood Pheasant, Common Hill Partridge, Magpies, Black Eagle, Blue necked Pitta, Sunbirds and different other types of animals and birds. By the evening you return to your hotel for an overnight stay.
  • Day 06: Ravangla - YuksomFrom Ravangala you continue your drive to Yuksom. En-route you will be stopping to take a 45 min walk uphill to visit Tashiding Monastery – Sikkim’s most sacred monastery. Built in 1716, Tashiding was described as the heart of “Bayul Demoshong” by Guru Rimpoche. The complex is also the location of the “Thomgwa Rongdol” Chorten. A mere glance of this sacred Stupa is said to wash away one’s sins.
    By the evening you will arrive at Yuksom. Yuksom was the first capitol of Sikkim, where according to historical records, the first Chogyal (King) of the Kingdom of Sikkim was consecrated in 1641 A.D. by three learned lamas. “Yuk” means three and “Som” means a meeting place. Yuksom is also the take off point for trekking to the regions of Dzongri and Goecha La, which lies at the base of Mt Khanchen Dzonga. On arrival you check into your hotel. Overnight stay at your hotel.
  • Day 07: Yuksom - Kecheopalri Lake - PellingEarly in the morning you take a short trek up the hill side to visit Dubdi Monastery. This was the first monastery established soon after the consecration ceremony of the first Chogyal. The monastery is located on a hill top above Yoksum surrounded by verdant forest. It can be approached only by a trek. You return to your hotel for breakfast.
    After breakfast visit the nearby Coronation Throne that stands mute testimony to the historic event of the coronation of the first Chogyal by three learned lamas. Thereafter, you set out on a trek to Kecheopalri Lake. Situated at a distance of 27 km from Pelling, the Lake is considered to be one of the sacred lakes of the State both by the Buddhist and the Hindus. The Lake remains hidden under the rich forest cover. However, birds do not permit even a single leaf to float on the surface of the lake. As one dismounts from the vehicle and walks along the path that leads up to the lake the serenity of the area is all pervading. Religious sayings in the local script are brightly painted on the rocks alongside the road. On nearing the lake the first thing that catches the eye are the numerous prayer flags that have been erected on poles on the banks of the lake. A jetty with prayer wheels on ether side leads up to the banks of the lake. You may find some locals offering prayers at its banks. At Kecheopalri Lake you will find your vehicles waiting for you for your drive to Pelling. On arrival you check in to your hotel. Overnight stay at your hotel.
  • Day 08: Pelling - KalimpongEnjoy early morning sunrise views from you hotel. Then, after breakfast, visit Pemayangtse Monastery. It is one of the oldest monasteries in the State. Inside the monastery there is a wooden structure depicting the Maha Guru’s heavenly palace (Sang-tok-palri), which is considered a masterpiece created by the Late Dungzin Rimpoche. The monastery, located on a hilltop at an altitude of 6,500 ft, commands a magnificent panoramic view of the Himalayan ranges, the surrounding hills and countryside.
    A short drive away from the Monastery is the Rabdentse Ruins. This was the second capital of the erstwhile Kingdom after Yuksom and till the year 1814 AD, the King of Sikkim ruled from this place. Today, the ruins lie hidden from the main road, a short walk along a neatly laid out footpath leads it. The scenic view from the top of the ruins scanning across the valley to the mystic heights of Khanchen Dzonga ranges is something to be cherished. 
    After your visit you drive to Kalimpong, which is nestled in the foothills of the Himalayas. Kalimpong in local dialect means “black spur”. As per Lepchas Kalimpong means “the ridge where we play”. It is said that these local tribesmen used to organize field sports when not engaged in agricultural pursuits. It is also home to the most exotic species of flora and fauna. The short spring season sees these mountains bathed in all conceivable hues. Fiery rhododendrons splash the mountainside in most beautiful of reds, while the pale Magnolia forests provide a striking contrast. The valley too comes alive with a profusion of daises, daffodils, chrysanthemums and tuberous begonia, orchids, even the rarest, grow in abundance in the wild. On arrival you check into your hotel. Overnight stay in our hotel.
  • Day 09: Around KalimpongFrom Kalimpong you take a short drive to Algarah from where your trek for today starts. You climb up a forested path, coming across caves on your way to the top. You get great views of the Teesta valley. At the highest point of your trek you arrive at Damsang Fort (1,789 m / 5,900 ft). The Fort was built in 1690 by Bhutan during their reign of this region to stem any aggression by the troops of the East India Company and other hostile tribes as well. In those days the Bhutanese used to also administer the area from this Fort. (The last Lepcha King Pana Gaeboo Achyok was the local ruler of this area in the 17th century. He was assassinated by the Bhutanese). Apart from the mystic and historical interests one is also treated to a magnificent view of the entire Himalayas, lush green valleys & tiny hamlets dot the landscape. On your return you descend through a forest on a well laid out path to the hamlet of Pedong. The road beyond Pedong goes to Jelep La (Pass), which was once the famous silk route to Tibet along which caravans & muleteers traversed to barter their goods. Your vehicle will pick you up from this point and a 40 minutes drive gets you back to the hotel.
    In the evening visit Pine View Nursery where the collection of cactus will amaze you. The town’s flower nurseries have achieved international recognition owing to the excellent qualities of rare flowers grown by the local flower entrepreneurs of the area. Thereafter, take a walk along the main street of Kalimpong as well as explore the shops in the by lanes where you may pick up some interesting curious / souvenirs. Overnight stay in your hotel.
  • Day 10: Around KalimpongToday you set out early from Kalimpong for a day of drive-cum-trek in the virgin forests of Samthar plateau. From Kalimpong your journey takes you via Lava (2,182 M / 7,200 FT) to the start point of your trek. This drive up to Lava is along a ridge through thickly forested countryside. The dense forest cover and the very little traffic on the road makes you feel that you are in wilderness. Your trek of approx 2 hrs commences at Gompa Dara and culminates at Budhebara through terraced fields and small hamlets where one can interact with charming Bhutia and Lepcha people. At Budhebara you will be met by your vehicles and take a short drive to visit a “Heritage Forest” near Lolygaon, where you will find an amazing variety of trees. A walk over a tree canopy bridge is quite interesting. After the visit to the “Heritage Forest” you drive a short distance further to commence the second portion of the day’s trek. Your trekking trail takes you through forests, a tiny Tamang tribal hamlet and cardamom plantations till you reach the road head after approx an hour of trekking at a place that is locally known as Mandir Khola (“khola” means a stream). Once again your vehicles will meet you and then you drive back to Kalimpong. Overnight stay at your hotel.
  • Day 11: Kalimpong - PhuntsholingFrom Kalimpong you descend to the Coronation Bridge across the Teesta River. This bridge is a crucial road link between the rest of the country & the eastern region. The road then travels eastwards & you enter the Doars area of West Bengal. The area is known for its tea gardens. The countryside gives way to well maintained tea bushes on either side of the road. The countryside scenery looks beautiful with vast stretches of perfectly trimmed tea bushes that form a green carpet as far as the eye can see.
    By the evening you pass through a typical Bhutanese Gate that greets visitors at the entrance of Phuntsholing, on the bank of the Tosar River. On crossing the gate one can immediately feel a certain degree of tranquility and the atmosphere of relaxation so typical of Bhutanese way of life. On arrival you check into your hotel. The evening is free to explore Phuntsholing town. Overnight stay in your hotel.
  • Day 12: Phuntsholing - ThimphuThe road to Thimphu was only completed as late as 1962. Shortly after leaving the town the road ascends to give you a birds eye views of Phuntsholing town sprawling besides the Tosar River. Slightly less that 5 km away from Phuntsholing is Rinchending where there is an immigration check post. Here the Bhutanese police check the permits and passports of all foreigners visiting Bhutan. The road now hairpins upwards and after about 45 minutes of driving you get into thickly forested hillsides. There is very little habitation and the villages are few and far between. What catches the eye along the way are the houses. Every house, be it in a small settlement or in a town, is built in the traditional Bhutanese architectural style. Along the way picturesque waterfalls dot the landscape. The first big settlement that comes your way is at Gedu that has the Tala Hydroelectric Project. Gedu has a nice restaurant by the wayside where you can get to taste your first Bhutanese cuisine. Continuing after lunch you cross Chhukha, which is well known for its hydroelectricity project. 5 km from Chhukha is another police check post where you have to make an entry and your luggage is checked thoroughly. The road ascends from here to the highest point on the Phuntsholing - Thimphu road where a signboard proclaims the height to be 8,350 ft. Thereafter you travel along the Wang Chu (river). 141 km from Phuntsholing you come to the confluence of the Wang Chu and the Paro Chu. On the right of the road is a bridge that spans the Wang Chu with a road that bifurcates in two directions: the right road going to Paro (24 km) and the left one going to Ha (79 km). Another 31 km of driving that takes approx an hour gets you to Thimphu where you will reach by the evening. On arrival you check into your hotel. Overnight stay in your hotel.
  • Day 13: Thimphu - ParoIn the morning you will visit the Textile Museum as in Bhutan textiles are an art form integrated with all aspects of life, the Folk Heritage Museum dedicated to connect people to the Bhutanese rural past, the Institute of Zorig Chosum & the National Institute of Traditional Medicine. You then travel to Paro Valley, which is one of the most beautiful in Bhutan with the majestic Mount Chomolhari towering over it. Cozily tucked in this valley is the town of Paro that has an airport. The town still maintains traditions by way of architecture and a simple way of life. On arrival at Paro you first check in to your hotel. Then visit the National Museum, Paro Dzong and explore downtown Paro Main Street. Overnight at the hotel.
  • Day 14: Paro - Taktsang Monastery - ParoOne place really worth visiting in the Paro Valley is the Taktsang Monastery. Reaching the monastery involves a 3-hour trek from the road head. You first drive from Paro on the road to Drugyel Dzong for about 8 km and then commence your trek to the monastery. From the road head far away and high up on the cliff top, the Taktsang Monastery can be seen. For a moment you may think that you cannot make it to the top but something draws you and you start your climb. On our way back you can’t help but wonder as to how man could have ever made this impossible structure. Before returning to Paro visit Drugyel Dzong. In the evening you can take a downtown stroll in the market place. Overnight in your hotel.
  • Day 15: Paro - DelhiYour visit to the Eastern Himalayas in and around the Sikkim (The Land of Mystic Splendor) and Bhutan (The Land of the Thunder Dragon) ends with a flight from Paro to Delhi. On arrival at Delhi you will be received & checked into your hotel. In evening will be free for some shopping, if desired. Overnight stay in your hotel.
  • Day 16:There is the option of a day visit to agra to see the Tajmahal & then return to Delhi by the evening to be transferred in time to the airport to board your flight back home.

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